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March 2, 2015 3

Fun Fennel Friday

By in Cooking, Entertaining, Girl Links World

I double date with Anita and her boyfriend pretty often with Sugarface. On one of our double dates, Anita’s boyfriend and I were engaged in some friendly trash talk. We were discussing flavors in a broth and fennel was brought up. I bragged that I make this delicious fennel and chicken dish. Anita’s boyfriend counters by saying he makes an awesome salmon fennel dish. We both then laid claim that our respective dishes trumps the other’s. Our playful banter escalated to a Fennel Off.

Our more humble significant others took the opportunity to try out fennel dishes to complement our main entrees. Sugarface made a delicious gin cocktail and appetizer and Anita made a fennel dessert. As we ate through the courses and found ourselves all enjoying each other’s contributions, our animosity died and we declared ourselves all winners. Details are now hazy but we might have all high-fived each other.

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Sugarface’s cocktail had fennel and orange and gin and was so refreshing. Everyone except me had second cocktails. If I could handle my alcohol, I would have done so too!

fennel-sf-2
Sugarface also made an apple, bacon, fennel chutney that we nibbled on while the salmon roasted. He cut down the bacon from half a pound to just over a quarter pound. We thought it was perfect. The three flavors went well together! I love that Sugarface’s contributions were both so different. One could say, they were like apples and oranges!

fennel-w-2

Anita’s boyfriend roasted salmon over fennel, onions, and cherry tomatoes. He is a health conscious person and likes staying away from starches and eating vegetables. After tasting this dish, I can see why he makes this pretty often. It’s tasty and you feel like a virtuous healthy person when you eat it. I don’t have a recipe link to share but it is a simple roast.

fennel-l-2

I roasted chicken thighs with fennel and lemon. This is one of my go to recipes for quite some time now. The very first time I made this dish was the first time I cooked with fennel. I remember being wary of having a licorice flavored chicken, but roasting does wonders to fennel and when you roast it with lemon, white wine, and chicken fat? Delectable! It also takes no time to make and is a great work day dinner recipe.

Finally, Anita made a fennel panna cotta. Remember when I told you how we called ourselves all winners? We did but then we tried Anita’s dessert and unanimously decided if there was going to be a winner for the night, it would be the panna cotta. Anita modified the recipe linked by serving it with raspberries instead of spiced pears. The fennel flavor really comes through in the panna cotta. It was a light texture with a distinct fennel flavor. I wanted to swim in it.

I know how dorky it sounds to say we had a double date centered around fennel, but it was truly a highlight of my weekend!


Question: Do you have any favorite fennel recipes? Please share!

February 18, 2015 1

The Eats at JW Marriott Austin

By in American, Austin

JW Marriott

Last night I was one of the invited guests to sample the eats at the newly opened, long awaited and the second largest JW Marriott in the world. They are barely open and are already booked solid! We sampled bites from Osteria Pronto, Corner Restaurant, and Burger Bar.

The first stop of our progressive meal and restuarant tour was Osteria Pronto. We sampled the Burrata, Ravioli Gamberi, Calamari, and Lemon Tart. Two of my favorite dishes of the night were the burrata and ravioli.

JW Marriott
Burrata Campagna from Osteria Pronto; Prosciutto de Parma, tomato, balsamic jelly, pink peppercorns; $10

JW Marriott
Ravioli Gamberi from Osteria Pronto; shrimp filled ravioli, charred broccolini, saffron sauce; $17

JW Marriott
Fritto Misto from Osteria Pronto; calamari, shrimp, artichokes, pepperoncini; $11

JW Marriott
Lemon Tart from Osteria Pronto

Our second stop of the night was at Corner Bar where we tried the moist and flavorful Zucchini Cornbread, Pork Carnita Tacos, a vegan Roasted Squash & Farro salad and a pumpkin cake with a delightful brown sugar icing (not photographed). My fellow diners made happy sounds of approval as they ate all four of these dishes. The roasted squash & farro salad was outstanding.

JW Marriott
Zucchini Cornbread; $6 and Pork Carnita Tacos; $12 from Corner Restuarant

JW Marriott
Roasted Squash & Farro Salad, baby kale, pumpkin seeds, pickled grapes, miso sesame vinaigrette; $12 Corner Restuarant

Our last stop for the night was outside the hotel in the brisk night air.

JW Marriott

There’s a market for cheap eats downtown Austin for the late night bar hopping demographic, and JW Marriott has something easy on your wallet! On the side of the hotel facing Congress, there is a burger stand aptly named Burger Bar. Their burgers will cost you from $4.25 to $6.25. Soft serve cones are just $2.50.

JW Marriott

JW Marriott


Views from the Pool Deck

After the media event, I checked out the hotel’s pool deck. I had the entire pool deck to myself. I guess no one wanted to take a dip when it’s 30 something degrees out! Austin’s cityscapes are pretty aren’t they?

JW Marriott

JW Marriott

JW Marriott

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February 11, 2015 7

February Brunch Club

By in American, Cooking, Entertaining, Girl Links World

My roommate Ashley and I hosted our second monthly Brunch Club. You can read more about our first brunch here. I commandeered this month’s hosting from Anita because I wanted to have a Valentine themed brunch. Since childhood, I’ve been freakishly into Valentine’s Day.

I often get asked how I afford the travel and eating out that I do and there really isn’t real secret other than pay attention to prices, try to eat in, prioritize experiences over material goods, and be creative with what I already have. One of this year’s goals is to be more mindful with my money after spending 2014 like it was one big buffet and vacation. I opted for 3 dollar filler flowers from Trader Joe’s for our table accents.

A coworker had these paper decorations from a party he hosted and had no further need for them. He gifted them to me and I glued the paper hearts to the paper lanterns. The wall originally had a photo gallery of travel photos with a dominant color of blue. The deep blues clashed with the hanging decorations so I rearranged my wall hangings to break it up. I had a painting I wasn’t in love with so I spray painted it with colors I already had and stenciled a heart to add to the Valentine theme. The flutes were a dollar store score.

I made egg tarts; Anita made heart shaped donuts using this Joy the Baker recipe and nutella banana bread. Ashley baked pink whoopie pies, and MJ made Japanese hot cakes. Grapefruit mimosas were consumed, much to my dog’s dismay.

Anita made us adorable Valentine’s Day photo booth style cards. She used Artifact Uprising for the printing.

What I love about our Brunch Club is it’s a chance to catch up with my girlfriends, drink champagne and coffee, stay much longer than we would at a restaurant, try new recipes, and instagram without guilt.

P.S. We have a Brunch Club inspiration Pinterest Board.

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January 26, 2015 1

Peached Tortilla

By in Asian, Austin, Portland

5520 Burnet Rd
Ste 100
Austin, TX 78756
http://www.thepeachedtortilla.com/

The food scene on Burnet Rd is flourishing! I just blogged about Noble Sandwiches. Not too far down and across the street, Peached Tortilla opened a brick and mortar. Peached Tortilla is one of my favorite trailers in Austin so I was excited to see yet another great trailer graduate to B&M.

Peached Tortilla
Crispy Umami Chicken Wings; fish sauce vinaigrette, herbs, shallots; $9

These savory chicken wings remind me so much of Pok Pok’s Fish Sauce Fried Chicken Wings. It didn’t come as a surprise when I read later that these chicken wings were inspired by Pok Pok (a must eat if you ever eat in Portland!) Don’t be shy with these wings. Really dig in and don’t forget to lick your fingers.

Peached Tortilla
Kimchi Arancini Balls; wasabi & sriracha aioli, roasted nori (contains shellfish); $7

Have I ever told you that for my 30th birthday, I had a Balls Party? Every guest was required to bring a food item that was in the shape of balls. I like balls. These would have been a hit at my party.

Peached Tortilla
Lush Pork Belly Bowl; five spice pork belly, house kimchi (contains shellfish), pickled daikon carrots, 45 minute egg; $13

I was writing this blog post a couple of weeks ago while on a blogging date with Michelle of Foodie Is The New Forty and she kept talking about how the Pork Belly Bowl is one of her favorite dishes in Austin right now. I don’t know why I didn’t connect the dots that I in fact ate and loved the Pork Belly Bowl! Here is my evidence! How it slipped my mind is beyond me because it was my favorite dish here! And I agree with Michelle’s assessment. I’ll always order this bowl when I come to Peached.

Peached TortillaBacon Jam Fries; green onions, sharp cheddar, fried egg, chili aioli, $8

I know bacon’s glory days are purported to be long gone and some diners have begged for chefs to quit it with the bacon already. I’m not one of those diners. I’ll never give up on bacon. Or fries for that matter. So these Bacon Jam Fries are my jam.

Not pictured but also tasted was the Southern Fun (braised brisket, kale, bean sprouts, wide rice noodles; $13). I decided that when going to Peached Tortilla, it’s best to bring a few dining partners because how else are you supposed to eat your favorites? I have an obsession with noodles and have a hard time resisting them on most menus. Which means I’ll have to order this as well as my favorite entrée the Lush Pork Belly Bowl every time I’m here. Which means I should bring friends if I ever want to eat more of Peached’s menu. Glutton problems.

Peached Tortilla
Singapore Fling ,coconut tapioca, palm sugar syrup, grilled Asian pear, lime zest; $7
In the back, a peek of the Nutella Banana Spring Rolls, $7.

For dessert we tried the Singapore Fling and the Nutella Banana Spring Rolls. I liked the Singapore Fling. It wasn’t too sweet which is what a lot of Asian desserts are like. It almost has an airy quality to it and I love its fragrance. My eating companions preferred the Nutella Banana Spring Rolls as it was a bit more heavy handed on the sugar because of the Nutella.

All in all, Peached Tortilla had a strong debut as a brick & mortar and I’m already looking forward to returning!

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January 23, 2015 2

Valentine Gift Idea: Mini Cupcakes from Baked by Melissa

By in American, Desserts, New York

Baked By Melissa

My love for Valentine’s Day has always made me kind of a freak. Even while with boyfriends who ignored this holiday and when I had no significant other, I always made sure to celebrate. Many of my cherished Valentine memories were with long time friends and family members. One year my brother and I went to Build-A-Bear for Valentine’s Day and I still sleep with the teddy bear he made me. Another year, I hosted a Valentine Day card making party and then my friends and I delivered them to a local nursing home. This year, I am looking forward to hosting the next Brunch Club Potluck and obnoxiously decorating my apartment with all the hearts.

This is all to say that when Baked by Melissa offered me samples of their mini Valentine’s Day cupcakes, they had me at “Valentine”. I looked up their company to see that they are a popular mini cupcake bakery with locations in New York and lucky for the rest of us they ship and deliver! I received my box of mini Valentine cupcakes and was impressed by their packaging. The cupcakes remained in tact and it comes with an ice pack. You stick them in the freezer upon arrival and pull them out thirty minutes before eating.

Baked By Melissa

The Valentine Collection include three Valentine themed cupcakes. White Chocolate Pretzel, Red Velvet Pretzel, and Peanut Butter Pretzel. They are so dainty that you don’t feel guilty gobbling all three. The pretzel balls give the moist cake a nice salty and crunchy note. I’m quite picky about my cupcakes. I find most icings too rich for me and I expect to scoop off the icing of most of the cupcakes I encounter. I’m happy to share I did no such thing to these cupcakes. I enjoyed every crumb and lick. I’ve been told that they also offer special packaging for the holiday, tie-dye pink ribbon for gift boxes containing the Valentine’s Day Collection.

So add these cupcakes to your gift brainstorm for Love Day!

Baked by Melissa

Aside from receiving these darling cupcakes free of charge, I was not compensated for this post and I mean every word. Photos taken and edited by me as always unless otherwise stated.

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January 21, 2015 4

January Brunch Club

By in Cooking, Entertaining, Girl Links World

Brunch Club January

I love that I have girlfriends who enjoy entertaining and having a beautifully set table. One of my favorite highlights from 2014 was hosting a brunch potluck with Anita, MJ, and Ashley. So when Anita suggested we do this once a month, I was all in! MJ hosted the first one and it was the perfect Sunday afternoon spent instagramming without guilt, giggling about boys and dating, and eating delectable food. Anita made orange cranberry (minus the cranberry) breakfast buns from Smitten Kitchen, MJ made butter coffee and sous-vide eggs, Ashley baked cheesy potatoes, and I made mini quiches (recipe inspiration from Real Simple).

Brunch Club January

Brunch Club January

Brunch Club January

Brunch Club January

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January 19, 2015 2

Eat Dinner at Noble Sandwiches Co.

By in American, Austin

4805 Burnet Rd
Austin, TX 78756
(512) 666-5124
http://noblesandwiches.com

Here’s some fun news! Noble Sandwiches is now open for dinner service. I had the pleasure of being invited to a media preview this past weekend. I enjoyed everything I tried but especially the oxtail and grits with added egg and the mac and cheese with added pork belly and brussel sprouts. I like to joke that adding brussel sprouts to my pork is how I make things healthy.

Noble Sandwiches
Red Chile Braised Oxtail Grits (with added egg)

Noble Sandwiches
Mac and Gouda with added pork belly and brussel sprouts

Noble Sandwiches
Seared Creole Catfish with Crayfish Sauce, Collard Greens and Green Pepper Cornbread

Noble Sandwiches
Smoked Quail with Grilled Napa Cabbage, Mushroom Red Eye Gravy and a Biscuit

Not photographed but also debuting on the dinner menu are swine burgers, venison burgers, red wine braised lamb, and smoked all natural beef hotdogs with pimento.

They are celebrating the inception of their dinner service with a contest! Eat dinner at Noble Sandwich Co. during the month of January, tweet about it or post on Instagram, and use the hashtag #EatDinneratNoble and get entered to win dinner for you and a friend!

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January 6, 2015 12

Sichuan River

By in Asian, Austin

spread

4534 W Gate Blvd
Ste 105
Austin, TX 78745

I recently moved from North Austin to South Austin to cut down my working commute from 2 hours a day to a whopping 30 minutes a day with traffic. I read somewhere that an easy happiness boost is to cut down your work commute. So far I find this to be true. I’ve gained back an hour and a half of my life every working day!

There are a few things I still mourn from being in North Austin. I miss having a casual drop-by-whenever-we-want relationship with my North Austin girlfriends. I miss the condo I was renting from my friend and how safe it felt to walk in the dead of the night with Bob the Dog. And finally, I miss the Asian food scene in North Austin. If there’s an area in Austin that ranks supreme for authentic Asian food and grocery stores, it is North Austin.

I was driving around my new neighborhood recently when I realized I was less than 10 minutes away from the newly open Sichuan River and was jolted with happy memories of my induction into an informal Asian Supper Club with some of my favorite food friends. I somehow weaseled myself into this charming circle of people who meet occasionally over Asian food and invited myself to their last outing, which happened to be in South Austin at Sichuan River.

This was a lovely gem to open in South Austin. Located in an unassuming strip mall, Sichuan River makes up for its lack of ambience and decor with authentic, tasty and inexpensive food. We ordered garlic eggplant, mapo tofu, green beans, egg foo young, sizzling Sichuan lamb and Dan Dan noodles. The bill came to be less than 15 dollars split between six people with everyone stuffed to the brim and we still had some leftovers! Everything we shared family style was eaten merrily.

The popular favorites among our dining group were the really spicy sizzling Sichuan lamb and the egg foo young. Not surprising with my obsession for noodles, I could easily order the Dan Dan noodles every time I come to Sichuan River. I suspect I’ll be coming here more frequently now that it’s only a hop and a skip away!

sizzling

dandan

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January 2, 2015 0

Houston: Siphon Coffee

By in American, Coffee shops, Houston

Siphon Coffee

701 W Alabama St
Houston, TX 77006
(281) 974-4426
http://siphoncoffeehouston.com/

Siphon Coffee is a hip spot for you to check out next time you’re looking for cool coffee shops in Houston. I was out gallivanting in Houston and chasing murals with Thomas when we stopped here for a coffee break. It was the first time I had even heard of halogen siphon brewed coffee. The cups of coffee here are priced higher than my average cups of coffee but it is high quality coffee and the shop interior is quite cozy and spacious. The light from the halogen siphons is hypnotizing. I didn’t eat here but word is their baked goods and paninis are good.

Siphon

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December 9, 2014 4

Noodles in New York City

By in Asian, New York

Have you ever experienced a bruised heart while on vacation? I don’t recommend it, but if you must tend to a heart wound while traveling, New York City is a good city. Though not known for its friendliness, New York City and all its nooks and crannies can be a warm cocoon to those in need to cry. There’s even a tumblr rating places in New York based on how accommodating it is to crying.

Last month I visited New York City with a group of friends and you see where this is going right? I had an unexpected falling out with someone I was traveling with and became a New York City cliche. That girl crying on subways by herself.

I can laugh about it now which means I can finally write about it. Really, New York City caters to the broken hearted. I myself medicate with bowls of noodles, spending time with good friends, and browsing book stores. I got all three of these needs met during my disastrous trip. There is so many of the nation’s top rated ramen places in the city. Also, part of the city’s magic is it’s one of those cities where I will always have a friend or two living there. It’s the revolving door of my social circle. When one good friend moves away, another moves in. Fortunately for me one of my best friends was in the city and he accompanied me two of the three ramen places on my list and also took me to the famed book store, The Strand. Had it been any other city, I don’t think I would have gotten this lucky!

momofuku
Momofuku Noodle Bar, 171 1st Ave

I mentioned my New Yorker friend took me to two of the three ramen places. Two of the guys I traveled with accompanied me to the third. This bowl of ramen is from Momofuku. I had the original ramen with pork belly and poached egg. It soothed my achey soul. The star of this meal though was the amazing pork belly buns. Ask for them even if i you don’t see it on the menu. Sean and Nils and I were so ecstatic when we were seated after a measly ten minute wait. The night before I waited over two hours for Ippudo and they had waited over two hours for Totto. The trick is to get there right when it opens, at 5:30pm.

When you go, be a dear and buy some of their amazing cookies to take back to your friends at home! And I mean it about the pork belly buns!

tottoTotto Ramen 51, 464 W 51st St

Literally after leaving Momofuku, I left Sean and Nils and got on the subway to meet Nam at Totto. I had expected a long wait there but we got right in and I proceeded to have a second ramen dinner. Totto is Japanese for “chicken” so this is chicken based broth and it was delicious. I got my ramen with avocado. Not pictured but also quite tasty was the fried chicken.

ippudoIppudo, 65 4th Ave

Excuse the grainy cell phone photo, this was my first bowl of therapeutic noodles and I’m surprised I even snapped a photo. Nam and I waited over two hours which we mitigated by visiting The Strand and browsing books. It’s a few minutes away so I recommend killing some of that wait time by heading to the book store. I ordered the Karaka Men which is the “Tonkotsu” (pork) soup noodles. Nam also introduced me to Tako Wasabi, raw baby octopus in a wasabi sauce. I love it so much I now look for it every time I’m in a Japanese restaurant.

So that’s three comforting bowls of noodles in two days. Not pictured or mentioned was an entire pan of macaroni cheese from Freemans. Friends, noodles, and books, they soothe me.

I want to thank Blacklane for providing my friends and me complimentary luxurious rides to and from the airport for this memorable and delicious trip to New York. The drivers are professional, the bottled water was cold and refreshing, and it was such a welcomed sight to see our driver holding up a sign for us when we arrived back into the Austin Airport. I highly recommend them and they offer their services all over the world!

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